Malin Akerman, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Betty White
- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by David Medsker
news bit recently made the rounds about the screenwriter for “The Proposal.” When the script was purchased and put into production, the studio believed that the script had been written by an unknown writer named Jennifer Kirby, but it was later revealed that the writer was “Eagle Eye” co-producer Peter Chiarelli, using his wife’s first name and mother’s maiden name as a pseudonym. After watching the movie, it is painfully obvious that this was written by a man, as the female lead is beaten to a pulp (figuratively speaking, for the most part) from start to finish, while the male lead merely has some Daddy issues to deal with. It’s also pretty dark for a rom-com, with little of the true love fairy dust that carries most of the movies in the genre. This turns out to be both an asset and a liability.
Sandra Bullock is Margaret Tate, an extremely powerful book publishing executive and the shrewiest shrew in all of Shrewville. Her faithful, downtrodden assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) puts up with her nonsense because he wants to be an editor and get his manuscript published, and Margaret is the person most likely to make that happen. When INS threatens to deport Margaret back to Canada after her work permit has expired, she blackmails Andrew into marrying her, so she can stay in the States. Andrew reluctantly agrees, and brings Margaret back to his hometown in Alaska that weekend to celebrate the 90th birthday of his grandmother Annie (Betty White). He drops the big news on his family, and they’re naturally shocked, since all they’ve heard about Margaret are horror stories. As the weekend progresses, however, Margaret discovers that her fake husband-to-be is in fact a great catch, which gives her misgivings about breaking the hearts of Andrew and his family members. Andrew, meanwhile, wonders if there might actually be a human being lurking underneath Margaret’s steely demeanor.
Let me guess: you saw this movie last year, when it was called “What Happens in Vegas.” Well, yes and no. “Vegas” was loaded with that fairy dust I referred to earlier, while “The Proposal” uses a few rom-com staples – the awkward stripper scene, the septuagenarian comic relief – to lighten up a rather serious movie about the importance of following your heart, in all aspects of life. This is not to say the movie is without laughs – naturally, Reynolds gets all of the best lines, since the screenwriter is a man – but that the movie is a different kind of funny than most romantic comedies.
Unfortunately, it’s also the same kind of predictable. There is an off-the-wall naked scene (bonus points to Bullock for that one) and a scene between Bullock and White in the woods that is so flawed that I don’t even know where to begin dissecting it. (Actually, I do: how did Annie’s CD player suddenly blast music that Margaret knew but Annie didn’t?) The story is also woefully lopsided in terms of emotional baggage. Ideally, our couple has an equal amount of stuff to deal with, and they meet in the middle. The only thing that Andrew has to deal with is Margaret, and his strained relationship with his father. Margaret, meanwhile, lost her parents when she was 16. Not a level playing field, and when the story clearly favors one character, the audience winds up doing the same.
Good thing the movie sports some genius casting, and then flipping one of those moves on its head. Having Bullock play the shrew was an inspired choice, since she’s likable even when she’s playing a miserable wretch of a human being. Reynolds, meanwhile, has this rom-com thing down to a science after romancing three women in “Definitely, Maybe.” Andrew’s parents are played by the equally likable Mary Steenburgen and Craig T. Nelson, and even the hit-and-miss Malin Akerman has a nice turn as Gertrude, the hometown love that Andrew left behind. Betty White’s sassy grandmother, however, is the token walking punch line, though they pull a shocking stunt with her in the movie’s third act.
Still, even when the movie has its audience howling with laughter (and boy, did they howl; boner jokes never miss, let me tell you), there is this unshakable, nagging thought that this might be the most ridiculous movie ever made, that the two leads are so transparent that they may as well be made of cellophane. That it proves to be genuinely funny in spots in spite of this is to its credit. What would have really helped the story, though, is a woman’s touch.
Two-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Fans of “The Proposal” will be excited to see a healthy collection of special features advertised on the back cover of the Blu-ray release, but that doesn’t mean they’re any good. The audio commentary by director Anne Fletcher and writer Peter Chiarelli is informative but a little too smart-alecky, while the included deleted scenes (one of which is exclusive to the Blu-ray) aren’t particularly memorable. Rounding out the two-disc set is a lame alternate ending, a short reel of on-set “antics,” an Easter Egg featurette on shooting Massachusetts to double for Sitka, Alaska, and a digital copy of the film.